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Category Archive for ‘Senate’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'Senate' Category


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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Kennedy’s letter

The Boston Globe is reporting that Teddy Kennedy wrote a letter this week to Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. His wish is that the state legislature amend state law to allow the governor to appoint a temporary replacement if a vacancy arises; a special election would still be held within a few months.

This is the system used in Texas, as we might discover later this year if Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns from her Senate seat. Such a change would put Massachusetts somewhere between its current law (a vacancy cannot be filled until a special election is organized) and the mechanism used in most states (the special election is not held within a few months but on the next regularly scheduled Election Day, which is what is now happening in New York or Delaware).

This would reintroduce one of the worst features of the appointment system - one that allows the governor to be the sole person responsible for picking a new senator, who then can entrench himself and win re-election without facing any sort of primary (see Bennet and Gillibrand). In a state like Massachusetts that has a multitude of ambitious Democrats who have been waiting for an open Senate seat for 28 years, that would be particularly frustrating.

Yet, Kennedy is only proposing a temporary appointment, which would leave far less time for an incumbent to entrench himself and should probably still allow for a competitive primary. (It would probably be too much to ask for Deval Patrick to commit to picking someone who would not run for reelection.)

As far as Senate Democrats are concerned, Kennedy’s letter is a positive development: If the state legislature follows his wish (and it’s unclear as to whether they will), it would them to count on an additional vote months before they otherwise would. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture here: Kennedy might be gravely ill, but few other lawmakers would be given such a pass for not resigning after more than a year of incapacitation.

“It is vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate during the approximately five months between a vacancy and an election,” Kennedy wrote in his letter. In doing so, he betrayed no awareness of the fact that the state has had only one for Senator for a year because of his refusal to resign despite the clear signs that he is in no position to show up for votes even if the Democratic leadership urgently needs him to.

This forced Democrats to seek additional GOP support on the stimulus, contributed to block lower-profile issues like David Hayes and Dawn Johnsen’s nomination and is now forcing Democrats to seek a Republican Senator to support health care reform - a major roadblock to progressive hopes of an ambitious bill. To prevent this situation and to make sure his absence did not become an obstacle for passing progressive legislation, Kennedy should have resigned months ago.

If Kennedy is that concerned about his state missing representation or Democrats having trouble passing legislation, he could resign now - that way Massachusetts would be sure of having a new Senator and Democrats would be assured 60 votes by the end of the year. (A reminder: Even if a Republican had won the special election, it would make little difference on cloture vote: the GOP Senator’s “no” would be equivalent to the all-to-probable Kennedy absence.)

The argument against this is that Kennedy can still show up for important votes if he needs to - and perhaps he is also thinking he might be able to drag himself to Washington for the health care vote. But not only does this look unlikely based on the information we have been given, but it also misses the point that it’s unlikely that a bill will get to the floor without the leadership knowing it has 60 votes. It’s been a while that no one has expected Kennedy to show up for a roll call, and even if he suggests he might be able to show up it’s not like Senate Democrats can count on his presence and negotiate a bill accordingly.

For instance: As long as Democrats don’t know for absolutely sure that Kennedy will be in D.C. during the health care vote and that they will be able to count on his “yeas” vote on cloture, how can they not water down the bill until they make sure they can compensate Kennedy’s potential absence with a Republican vote? Imagine the nightmare for Democrats if a non-bipartisan bill is finalized in the conference committee with the understanding that Kennedy will be there - and then he ends up not being able to come, leaving the legislation defeated with 59 votes.

As such, I seem to be a rare person who finds Kennedy’s letter aggravatingly hypocritical rather than touchingly moving.  “It’s typical of Ted Kennedy to be thinking ahead and about the people of Massachusetts, when the rest of us are thinking about him,” said Deval Patrick in reaction to Kennedy’s letter. Kennedy might have been a great Senator and a brilliant man, but I would have hoped that Democratic leaders would spend at least as much time worrying about whether the health care bill they will pass will lower costs and expand coverage.

Thus, I find Patrick’s comments hard to understand. Kennedy is a U.S. Senator, not a private citizen; he has responsibilities to the country and to his constituents. I find nothing strange in expecting that someone in such a position would want to ensure that his sickness will not become an obstacle for passing reforms - and the Kennedy clan should have cared about this months before this week.

(The news that this letter was drafted in early July but only sent today makes the situation that much more puzzling: Even if the state legislature were to now try to implement such a law, would it get moving in time for Kennedy to resign before the health care vote - and can Senate Democrats count on that possibility during negotiations?)

In any case, I leave it to you to decide whether it would be politically feasible for state Democrats to amend the law. On the one hand, they just changed it a few years ago to make sure then-Governor Mitt Romney would not pick a Republican replacement if John Kerry were elected president. On the other hand, it’s a small enough change that Democrats could easily argue that they are implementing it to ensure continuous representation rather than to help their party: It’s not like the appointtee would serve more than a few months or gain a huge incumbency advantage.


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Of Republican Senators running in 2010, not one supports Sotomayor

As expected, Sonya Sotomayor was easily confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The 68-31 roll call vote is tighter than John Robert’s 78-22 confirmation - but it is far larger than Samuel Alito’s 58-42.

All Democrats but Teddy Kennedy voted in favor of Sotomayor’s nomination, something we might have thought was a given but remained unclear until the final hours before the vote: Presumably fearful of attracting the NRA’s wrath, Alaska Senator Mark Begich did not announce his support for the nominee until the afternoon. Robert Byrd’s showing up is also a relief for Demorats, as it suggests the ailing West Virginia Senator is healthy enough to drag himself to the Senate for major votes; that should prove useful when health care reform makes it to the chamber’s floor later this year.

Yet, the vote’s most interesting storyline concerns Republicans. Out of 40 Senators, 9 voted to confirm Sotomayor: Lamar Alexander, Kit Bond, Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, Judd Gregg, Richard Lugar, Mel Martinez, Olympia Snowe and George Voinovich.

This list contains two very striking features:

  1. 4 of the 9 - Bond, Gregg, Martinez and Voinovich - have announced they will not seek re-election in 2010, which means that 66% of retiring Republicans supported Sotomayor. (And it’s not like the four are generally considered moderates: Both Bond and Gregg are typically reliably conservative votes.)
  2. None of the other 5 Senators is facing re-election in 2010. In other words, not a single Republican who is running for re-election in 2010 voted to confirm Sotomayor.

Put these two facts together, and it certainly suggests that Republican Senators are genuinely scared that base anger is a far bigger threat to their re-election prospects than looking too conservative or attracting the wrath of Hispanic voters.

That’s all the more clear when you consider that this is the first time that John McCain (AZ), Bob Bennett (UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) and Chuck Grassley (IA) have ever opposed the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice. All three supported Ruth Ginsburg in 1993 and Stephen Breyer in 1994. So what changed?

Well, Hutchison is running against Texas Governor Rick Perry in what has already become a race to the far-right; Bennett is fighting for his political life against a slate of conservative opponents who are trying to topple him at a state convention dominated by party activists; and McCain is facing a challenge from the right from a Minuteman founder who is sure to make immigration a top issue (how would McCain’s support for a Hispanic nominee fit into that?).

As for Grassley, there is continued speculation that Iowa conservatives are angry enough at him that a primary challenger could gain some traction. (Also: Today’s vote should take care of all speculation that Grassley might retire next year. Democrats shouldn’t count on an Iowa open seat before 2016.)

Heading into the health care debate, the Republican Senators’ desire to stand by conservative activists raises obvious questions as to the prospect of a bipartisan bill. In the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus has excluded most Democrats to negotiate with 3 Republicans - Snowe, Grassley and Enzi, two of which have just voted against Sotomayor today.

How likely is it that Grassley will accept championing a meaningful reform if he is feeling enough conservative pressure to oppose Sotomayor? After all, support of the Democrats’ health care bill is likely to be considered a far bigger betrayal by the Republican base than a vote for Sotomayor. Given that, imagine how much Grassley will force the health care bill to be watered down before he allows Baucus to trumpet a bipartisan agreement - and that’s before we even put Enzi in the equation, as his reputation is more conservative than Grassley’s.


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Democratic absences

Rumors are circulating that the Minnesota Supreme Court will issue its ruling on Norm Coleman’s election challenge in the hours ahead. That decision could potentially pave the way to Al Franken’s swearing-in, giving Democrats an additional vote in the Senate at a crucial time of the legislature.

Yet, while everyone is obsessed about Republican obstruction costing Democrats a seat in Minnesota, there is far less coverage of another vote Democrats have been missing: Teddy Kennedy has been absent from Washington for a year now. Democrats are said to control 59 seats, but they effectively have only 58; that makes much of the celebration of Specter and Franken giving the party a 60th vote moot.

Yes, I understand that Kennedy is sick and I wish him all the best. Yet, I am not sure why that is an excuse for holding up progressive reform for such a long time. There is a point at which a Senator (a 77-year old and 47-year incumbent, no less) who has not been capable of exercising his functions should realize that the country - and his party - would be better off if he resigned. A vote is a vote is a vote, and when we are talking about close roll calls there is no denying that Kennedy’s absence is making it much harder for the Democratic leadership to win tight votes.

(Remember: According to Senate rules, for a Senator not to participate to a cloture vote does not reduce the number of votes needed to reach a 3/5th majority; rather, it amounts to a “no” vote. To close discussion, Democrats need 60 votes, no matter how many of their members are in the chamber.)

Kennedy should resign, and do so quickly: The Senate is due to vote on a lot of important bills and contested appointments throughout the summer and fall.

Now, another Democratic Senator can no longer appear in the chamber: West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, 91, was hospitalized three weeks ago. At first, his office said he was in for a minor infection but he has yet to exit the hospital, and there is little information as to what is occurring or where Byrd even is. Thus, we do not know whether Byrd will be in the Senate to vote over the summer or fall. That puts Democrats at 57 votes - 3 short of cloture.

West Virginia Governor Manchin said this week that such discussions are callous. But Byrd, who is now 91, has chosen not to retire and he cannot expect to be treated as a private citizen; he is a U.S. Senator, and he holds in his hands the fate of many political issues. It’s perfectly normal for Democrats to worry that his absence might impact health care reform, Sonya Sotomayor’s nomination and any other legislation that might come up in the months ahead.

Two tangible examples are the nominations of Harold Koh and Dawn Johnsen two key legal positions in the Obama administration who have not gotten a Senate vote for months as the Democratic leadership does not have the votes to get either of them approved. As far as I can see, no Democratic Senator has voiced opposition to Koh. As for Johnsen, only Ben Nelson, who also suggested that he would vote for cloture, and Arlen Specter, who most believe could be convinced to block a filibuster, have done so. By contrast, at least one Republican, Senator Lugar, has indicated he supports Johnsen’s nomination.

What we are talking about, then, is the Democratic leadership lacking one, perhaps two, votes to get either appointees confirmed. Whenever an article is written about these appointments, a lot of ink is spilled trying to determine which Democratic Senator are unwilling to support Koh and Johnsen. Who is responsible for holding up these appointees? Whose votes are lacking?

For some reason, Kennedy is almost never mentioned in this discussion, tough blogs have poured a lot of vitriol on Republican obstruction, on Norm Coleman’s challenge and on Ben Nelson’s vague statements. And yet, if we are talking about one to two votes missing, Kennedy’s absence explains much of it. Had Reid held a vote last month, Kennedy’s vote would effectively have been the same as that of Coburn, DeMint or worst-case-scenario-Nelson: NO on cloture. The fact of the matter is that the clearest obstacle to Koh and Johnsen’s confirmation is that Massachusetts effectively has one Senator.

Kennedy’s absence is also having a clear impact on health care reform. The HELP bill, the liberal alternative to the increasingly centrist legislation drafted by Max Baucus’s Finance Committee, is typically described as the “Kennedy bill.” But that is misleading: Kennedy’s staffers might be involved in efforts to draft the legislation, but the Massachusetts Senator has not been around to defend the proposal. This makes all the difference in the world: Chris Dodd might be presiding over hearings and the ‘Kennedy bill’ might have plenty of backers, but none of them are seen as influential players.

This situation, which might explain why the HELP committee’s actions have looked so disastrously amateurish, could result in the liberal option not being taken as seriously as the Finance Committee’s draft. That would be a fatal blow to liberal efforts to push Baucus leftward by forcing a compromise between the HELP and the Baucus bills.

All of this might be fine if we were talking about a one month absence, but it starts being a bit depressing when it lasts for over a year - even more so when we read about how Kennedy is trying to ensure that another member of his family is installed in the Senate by the time he leaves the chamber. First, it was his wife, in Massachusetts; then, his niece Caroline, in New York; and now, his nephew Chris, in Illinois.

Update: Just this afternoon came another example of Democrats struggling because of Byrd and Kennedy’s absence. The war supplemental spending bill barely survived in a 60-36 procedural vote, and only after the party leadership convinced Maria Cantwell to switch after initially casting a “no” vote. (4 Republicans voted “yes,” which was just enough to make up for Byrd and Kennedy’s absence.)


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What to make of Specter’s decision?

“He accuses me of being a liberal, as though that’s some form of a dirty word,” said Arlen Specter of his conservative archnemesis Pat Toomey in 2004. He somehow managed to beat Toomey that year, but it was looking increasingly difficult to figure out how Specter could survive Toomey’s challenge in 2010.

Accordingly, Specter has taken the only decision that would leave him a shot at winning re-election and has left the GOP.

As such, the Senator’s decision should be interpreted first and foremost as one dictated by his electoral circumstances, and he acknowledged as much in his statement. “I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate,” he wrote. He also alluded to the hundreds of thousands of registered Republicans who left the party last year, making it that much more difficult for him to beat Toomey.

Similarly, Specter’s choice to run as a Democrat rather than as an independent is the one that makes the most sense for the Senator’s re-election bid. As I have explained before, an independent campaign would be difficult to pull off in a state like Pennsylvania - far more difficult than in Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman did so in 2006.  First, Pennsylvania’s voters are more partisan than in Connecticut. In the 2008 election, 31% of Connecticut voters identified themselves as independents versus 18% of Pennsylvania voters.

Second, Connecticut’s 2006 Senate race was essentially a two-man race. There was no credible Republican candidate, which made Joe Lieberman into the de facto GOP candidate: 70% of Republicans voted for Lieberman! The same situation would have been highly unlikely to take place in Pennsylvania’s Senate race; an independent Specter would have found himself in a 3-way race with no obvious reservoir of votes.

All of this gets us to the current situation: Arlen Specter, registered Republican since 1966 and GOP Senator since 1980, will now caucus with Democrats and he will run in next year’s Democratic primary. What could all of that mean?

60 Democrats

The most obvious consequence of Specter’s party switch is that, once Al Franken is seated, the Democratic caucus will have 60 votes. While the Pennsylvania Senator warned in his statement that he should not be considered an automatic 60th vote, there is little doubt that he will be more open to supporting the Democratic position than he was as a senior Republican Senator - not to mention one facing a top-tier primary campaign from a conservative challenger.

Here’s the bottom line: Harry Reid will now only need to keep his own caucus united rather than have to reach out to Republicans. That greatly improves the legislative odds of many Democratic priorities. “I’m a loyal Democrat, I support your agenda,” Specter told Obama this morning, according to an ABC News report.

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine Specter proving more reluctant to support the Democratic leadership than Senators like Ben Nelson or Evan Bayh are now or that Bruce Lunsford and Ronnie Musgrove would have been had they won last fall and provided Democrats a 60th seat.

On the other hand, Democrats should not start celebrating a filibuster-proof majority. The Senator might have been one of the most moderate Republicans of the Senate, but that did not make him a Lincoln Chaffee: There were obvious reasons Specter was in the GOP and it is difficult to predict how he will evolve now that he is in the Democratic caucus. Specter is a five-term Senator who has reached great heights of power and who is used to bucking his party; as he warned in his statement, he will not be a reliable vote for progressive priorities.

(In particular, Specter warned today that he still opposed to EFCA - a surprising declaration given that the Senator co-sponsored the legislation in 2007. We will have to see whether Specter just threw that sentence in his statement to defend himself against charges of opportunism. Given that Democrats still need some sort of compromise since Blanche Lincoln is also opposing EFCA, I find it hard to believe that Specter would not at least vote for cloture on whatever bill comes out of negotiations.)

As importantly: With Specter looking unlikely to make it to the general election, Democrats were already favored to pick-up the seat in 2010. They would have to live with only 59 votes until January 2011, but it was likely that they could then fill the Pennsylvania Senate seat with a Democratic Senator all the way until 2016.

Now, Specter is now favored to emerge as the Democratic nominee (as I explain below), which means that he is as liberal a Senator we can expect from the Keystone State next year. Pennsylvania is no Nebraska, Kentucky or Mississippi; Democrats could certainly have hoped for a more friendly Senator. In short: Specter’s decision is a boost to Democrats in the 111th Congress, but could be seen as a blow to progressives in the 112th, 113th and 114th Congress.

The Democratic primary

Specter will obviously have to beat back some sort of primary challenge, but he is should be considered the early favorite to prevail for a number of reasons:

1. The Democratic establishment is likely to support him: Arlen Specter did not just decide to switch parties this morning. Rumors of such a move have been in the air for months, and the Senator has undoubtedly had many talks with top Democrats - which reportedly included Vice President Biden - about the consequences of a switch. In other words, Specter would have been unlikely to pull the trigger had he not been given some assurance that he be supported by Democratic leaders, including the White House. Also, Democratic Governor Ed Rendell is a friend of Specter’s and is sure to back his primary campaign.

MSNBC confirms the existence of such an arrangement: “As part of the deal, the leadership of the Democratic party will fully support Arlen Specter, with both funding, message support and a promise to clear the primary field.” And in case there were any doubts, Barack Obama has already expressed his support. Someone has (probably innocently) leaked to the press that the President called Specter to say “you have my full support” and add that Democrats “are thrilled to have you.”

2. Will any Democrat be willing to challenge him? For much of the past few months, we have monitored the reluctance of top Democrats to take on the Pennsylvania Senator. Auditor Jack Wagner, Rep. Patrick Murphy, Allyson Schwarz and Joe Sestak were clearly unwilling to jump in the Senate race, even though there was a strong chance that Specter wouldn’t even make it to the general election. Now, any Democrat will be condemned to run an insurgent primary campaign against a longtime Senator most likely supported by President Obama and Governor Rendell. Needless to say, none of these Democrats are now likely to run, and I find it unlikely that current candidate Joe Torsella will stay in the race.

On the other hand: Specter’s vote over the next year will go a long way toward determining his electoral fate. In today’s statement, the Senator warned that he had not changed his mind on EFCA, but can that possibly be true? If the Senate holds a vote on card-check legislation, Specter’s vote will determine whether he faces labor-backed opposition: If he at least supports cloture, not only would he backed by Obama and Rendell but he would also be supported by organized labor. Needless to say, that could be all he needs to win the Democratic primary in a state like Pennsylvania.

The general election

If Specter wins the Democratic nomination, he would be heavily favored to win the general election. Pennsylvania might not be the most liberal of states, but it is Democratic. The GOP cannot win on the basis of the conservative-vote alone, and Specter is popular enough among independents to leave very little political space for the GOP. In fact, I would not be surprised if Toomey jumps out of the senatorial race and chooses to run for Governor instead.


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Of the power of conservative Senate Democrats

For a group that is barely one month old, Evan Bayh’s centrist caucus has sure caused a lot of noise. For much of March, the Indiana Senator conducted a flurry of interviews to explain why it was important for conservative Democrats to reach out to Republican lawmakers to beat back liberal members of their own party. Yet, he stayed predictably true to center-right politicians’ deceptive habit of hiding their ideological goals behind seemingly innocent words like “pragmatic” and “efficient.” In answer to critics, Bayh shot back, “We literally have no agenda. How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?”

Not only does that response make little sense (how would the caucus’s members have found each other?), it is also misleading. From the group’s very first days, its most prominent members have given voice to the same ideological outlook. They are fiscal conservatives who want to reduce deficits by cutting spending rather than by increasing taxes; they are skeptical of new governmental programs and of increased infrastructure spending; they have a pro-business and pro-free trade outlook.

Quite concretely, this ideological positioning has led Senators like Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad to take aim at White House priorities like cap-and-trade, health care reform, increased education spending, EFCA and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. (You would think that supporting the latter would be a minimal commitment required of Democratic lawmakers.) Other Senators like Claire McCaskill demonstrated their resistance to government spending during the stimulus debate. And at least 10 Democrats have voiced their opposition to passing health care and cap-and-trade through the reconciliation process, a maneuver many see as Obama’s only chance to pass the ambitious programs he has promised to implement.

More surprising was Harry Reid’s rush to defend a group that was at first interpreted as a blow to his authority. The Majority Leader contributed a quote to the group’s introductory press release. “New ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing,” he said. Later still, Reid chose to attack liberal groups who were criticizing the creation of the centrist caucus and Bayh’s attacks on progressive priorities. “I think it’s very unwise and not helpful. These groups should leave them alone,” he said. “It’s not helpful to me. It’s not helpful to the Democratic Caucus.”

Before becoming Majority Leader, Harry Reid was known as a moderate Senator, and it is possible that he would have been part of Bayh’s caucus had he not been part of the Democratic leadership. (The last time I wrote about Bayh’s group, I was only able to identify 12 other Senators: Landrieu, McCaskill, Lieberman, Lincoln, Pryor, Warner, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Klobuchar, Shaheen, Casey and Begich. A recent NYT piece adds 5 names to the list: Tom Carper, Mark Udall, Michael Bennet, Kay Hagan and Herb Kohl. This is one of the first times Hagan has signaled she could cause trouble for progressive causes; Kohl’s presence helps explain why he is one of the Democratic hold-outs on EFCA.)

Not all of these 18 Senators will oppose liberal priorities at the same rate, of course. Yet, their early strength and their public criticism of cap-and-trade, of EFCA and of the reconciliation procedure serve as a reminder that the biggest obstacle to Obama’s agenda is to be found in the President’s own caucus. The White House has much more to fear from Democratic obstructionism than from the GOP’s opposition.

In a new article well worth reading, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait warns that Democrats have an uncanny ability to “self-immolate.” He draws parallels between Obama’s first weeks and those of his two Democratic predecessors: the Senate’s conservative Democrats ruined Bill Clinton’s agenda in 1993-1994 and Jimmy Carter’s in 1976-1977. In both cases, a Democratic President was made to look ultra-leftist, inefficient and out-of-touch by members of his own party; this helped lead to the conservative resurgences of 1980 and 1994. He goes on:

Obama has come into office having won the popular vote by seven percentage points, along with a 79-seat edge in the House, a 17-seat edge in the Senate, and massive public demand for change. But it’s already clear he is receiving less, not more, deference from his own party [than Bush did]. Democrats have treated Obama with studied diffidence, both in their support for the substance of his agenda and (more importantly) their willingness to support it procedurally…

Even at this early date, the contrast between Democrats under Obama and Republicans under Bush is stark. Republicans did not denounce Bush for squandering a budget surplus to benefit the rich, the way Democrats now assail Obama for big spending and deficits. And Republicans did not refuse to use the budget procedures available to them to break through the Senate’s inherent lethargy. Republicans, in other words, acted like a parliamentary party…

The more Democrats defect, the more the president is defined as an extreme liberal, and the more ineffectual he seems as his agenda crashes upon the shoals… The hard truth for Democrats is that Obama’s popularity is bound to fall… The one factor within the Democrats’ control is whether their constituents see Obama as a strong leader taking action, like Roosevelt or Kennedy, or a floundering weakling, like Carter or first-term Clinton.

It is too early to theorize as to the consequences of Obama’s relationship with Senate Democrats. Yet, there is a clear risk that the window for progressive reform closes without any major changes having been implemented. If the White House fails to win approval for an overhaul of the health care system this year, when will that reform come about? If a significantly watered down version of EFCA is passed next fall, will Democrats bring back card-checks and binding arbitration in 2011, even if they gain a filibuster-proof majority?

As Chait points out, what is particularly frustrating for liberals is the Democrats’ failure to stand united when Bush was able to pass so many radically right-wing reforms with far smaller congressional majorities. In response to Chait’s frustration, Ezra Klein argues that the the contrast is not that clear: Republicans opposed the priorities of Bush’s first terms just as Democrats are opposing Obama’s; he points out that a number of Bush’s reforms were compromises with Democratic lawmakers rather than triumph of conservative ideology.

But there are two responses to this. For one, Democrats controlled Congress for much of Bush’s first two years in office - and they only fell to 49 seats after the 2002 midterms. Bush was forced to negotiate because he was in the minority - and he still managed to push the country to the right by a startling margin. Second, Klein’s argument only serves to show that Democrats were willing to support Bush’s proposals to an extent GOP Senators never considered helping Clinton - and we are talking about very controversial legislation like Bush’s tax cuts, bankruptcy reform, Medicare reform, the Iraq resolution.

Given that Democrats controlled 51 or 49 seats for all of Bush’s first term, it is remarkable that any of these reforms passed Congress without being watered down to a much greater degree. In other words, Bush’s first-term might suggest that the GOP also has difficulty passing its priorities without having them watered down, but I would argue that it first and foremost demonstrates that moderate Democrats are just as likely to boost a Republican President’s agenda as they are to obstruct a Democratic President’s priorities.

Chait proposes a number of fascinating theories to explain the Democrats’ lack of unity, particularly his contention that Democrats have “come of age under the old Democratic chieftains” while congressional Republicans have had to deal with being out of power for decades before 1994. He also offers a more traditional argument:

Taken as a whole, then, the influence of business and the rich unites Republicans and splits Democrats. A few Republicans no doubt felt some qualms about supporting Bush’s regressive, extreme pro-business agenda, but their most influential donors and constituents pushed them in the direction of partisan unity. Those same forces encourage Democrats to defect. That’s why Ben Nelson is fighting student-loan reform, coal-and oil-state Democrats are insisting that cap-and-trade legislation be subject to a filibuster, and Democrats everywhere are fretting about reducing tax deductions for the highest-earning 1 percent of the population.

The underlying point is that we should not confuse those who genuinely believe in third way policy solutions and those whose centrism derives from their ties to business interests, the donations they have received and the pressure from corporate lobbies. Someone is not necessarily well-intentioned just because his rhetoric sounds moderate; someone is not necessarily an expert on a subject just because he has bridged the gap between two extremes; and someone who pledges to protect buisiness interests is not automatically fiscally disciplined. (Chait’s detailed attack on Ben Nelson’s resistance to reforming the college loan system because “one of the lenders that benefits from federal overpayments is based in Lincoln, Nebraska” is particularly damning.)


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EFCA: Counting the votes

While it is not expected to be brought to a vote just yet, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in both chambers of Congress this week. 220 House members - more than enough to ensure passage - have already co-sponsored the measure, so everyone’s attention is turned to the Senate, where the fate of one of the year’s most consequential piece of legislation will be decided in the months ahead.

Over the past few weeks, conservatives have sounded upbeat about their chances of stopping the reform, and a number of Democrats have pulled back their past support. So what is the current situation, and do EFCA’s opponents really have the momentum? Yesterday, I delved into the Democratic caucus’s ideological fault lines and how they are influencing the EFCA debate; today, it is time to look at at where individual members fall on the bill and at the chances of passages.

I have put together a detailed head count, going through each individual Senator, especially the 23 who are not co-sponsors and whose vote will be decisive. I broke down their recent statements and past positions, and organized them in a table available below. A number of Senators have not taken an official stance yet, and phone calls to their offices yielded differing results. Kay Hagan’s office told me that she supported EFCA, other offices responded that their Senators were taking their time, others said that they were concerned with some aspects of the bill.

Here is the overall head count I have come to:

  • 40 co-sponsors
  • 4 Senators are not co-sponsors but look to be supporting the bill (Al Franken is included since the bill will not be brought to a vote before Franken is seated)
  • 16 Senators are undecided (this includes Ben Nelson, who says he is leaning against the bill but is explicitly more open to voting in favor of cloture, a key distinction I explain below)

There has undoubtedly been a drop in support over the past two years. The bill’s 2007 version had 47 co-sponsors and all Democrats voted in favor of cloture; now, Democrats have 7 more Senators but EFCA only has 40 co-sponsors. This evolution is not surprising: Business groups are much more active against the bill now than they were two years ago, when they knew the bill would not pass the Senate and that Bush would veto it even if it did.

Contrary to what some articles are suggesting, this drop in support does not necessarily mean that the bill is in trouble. There are two reasons to this:

  1. A number of Senators might be unwilling to associate themselves so closely with a top labor priority, which means they are delaying the announcement of their stance. Yet, EFCA is the most important priority of one of the party’s biggest constituencies. For a Democrat to vote against the bill would be one of the biggest breaks from the party they could undertake, and only a handful of those who are currently undecided will remain so by the time the debate ends. Does anyone expect Senators Kohl or Feinstein to sabotage EFCA? Sure, they might insist for the bill to be moderated and watered-down, but they are unlikely to threaten the bill’s meatiest substance.
    a
  2. This reason could not be more important, but some people seem to be forgetting it: The cloture vote (which requires 60 votes) and the vote on the final legislation (which requires 50 votes) are two completely separate things, and they should be treated separately. Harry Reid can afford to let a number of Senators vote oppose the legislation; all he needs of his Senators is to vote for the cloture vote. And while some will certainly be tempted to oppose the legislation, it will be a whole other level of betrayal to join Republicans on the cloture vote.

It might seem silly to expect Senators to split their vote between the cloture and the final vote, but this is common practice used by Senators who want to have it both ways on tough votes. The cloture vote is the only one unions will remember, but the final vote is the only one the broader public will likely notice. Take Alito’s nomination to the SCOTUS, for instance: Joe Lieberman voted “yes” on cloture and then “no” on the final vote. And Democrats might not be the only one to attempt a similar switcheroo on EFCA: Might such a maneuver not solve some of Arlen Specter’s problems?

It is exactly such behavior that Harry Reid described recently in expressing his confidence that the bill would pass. “We, of course, are looking for 60 votes. I think, frankly, they’re there,” he said. “Now remember: these are procedural votes. These aren’t votes on the substance of the bill. I think getting 60 votes on the procedural aspects of it is certainly there.”

For now, only Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson has admitted that he is thinking about the two votes separately, as he has hinted he now opposes the legislation but professed himself far more open to voting in favor of cloture (see his quotes in the table below). And this is something we will have to observe closely in the weeks ahead: The question is not whether 60 Senators are willing to back the legislation, but whether 60 Senators are willing to let said vote to occur.

There is much more we could say, but for now, let’s now go on to the individual head count. Needless to say, this is an evolving situation, and Senators are refining their position on a daily basis - so what is true today might not be true tomorrow.

The bill has 40 co-sponsors, all of whom are naturally expected to support the bill:

Daniel Akaka; Mark Begich; Barbara Boxer; Sherrod Brown; Roland Burris; Robert Byrd; Maria Cantwell; Benjamin Cardin; Thomas Carper; Robert Casey; Christopher Dodd; Dick Durbin; Russ Feingold; Kirsten Gillibrand; Tom Harkin; Daniel Inouye; Tim Johnson; Edward Kaufman; Ted Kennedy; John Kerry; Amy Klobuchar; Frank Lautenberg; Patrick Leahy; Carl Levin; Joe Lieberman; Robert Menendez; Jeff Merkley; Barbara Mikulski; Patty Murray; Bill Nelson; Jack Reed; Harry Reid; John Rockefeller; Bernard Sanders; Charles Schumer; Jeanne Shaheen; Debbie Stabenow; Tom Udall; Sheldon Whitehouse; Ron Wyden.

(Note that some of these Democrats - for instance Carper and Bill Nelson - have said they would rather see the bill moderated. But their willingness to co-sponsor the bill as it is introduces certainly suggests that they will not cause much trouble for the bill’s passage.)

In addition, at least 4 Democrats who are not co-sponsors support EFCA seem close to supporting the bill - though their vote is obviously more up in the air than the 40 Senators listed above:

Senator Notes
Franken Once he gets his seat, he is not expected to waver on EFCA (see his campaign website).
Dorgan Dorgan said: “I’ve cosponsored and supported it in the past, and I expect to again.”
Hagan Her spokesperson told Politico that Hagan supports the bill; her office confirmed to me that she was “in support” though she had no current plan to co-sponsor it.
McCaskill She voted “yes” and co-sponsored 2007 version. During her recent appearance on ABC’s This Week, she expressed doubt that there were 60 votes in support of the bill and she would undoubtedly be interested in compromise negotiation, but she also showed no sign of backing off her past support for the bill. On the other hand, she is the most likely to create trouble for the leadership on this issue of the four Democrats in this category.

That leaves us with 15 Democrats and 5 Republicans whose vote could be decisive:

Senator 2007 version Notes
Vote Sponsor
Bayh Yes Yes He has yet to make statement on 2009 version.
Baucus Yes Yes He has yet to make statement on 2009 version; his office said he is still “considering” the legislation and has “some reservations” about the bill as it is currently written.
Bennet N/A N/A He has not announced stance on EFCA. Has clashed with unions in Colorado; business groups reportedly hopeful they can win him over.
Bingaman Yes Yes No recent public statement; his Senate office refused to clarify Bingaman’s position.
Collins No No She opposes the legislation, but some believe she could perhaps be won over through negotiation, particularly if the card-check provision of EFCA is dropped.
Conrad Yes Yes He is actively avoiding taking a stand this year.
Feinstein Yes Yes She has yet to announce stance on 2009 version; her Senate office told me she is “taking a serious look at it” and “seriously considering it.”
Kohl Yes Yes No recent public statement; his Senate office said Kohl has “not announced his position on the current bill yet.”
Landrieu Yes Yes Her spokesperson says that Landrieu will take time to “review” the bill.
Lincoln Yes No She has been publicly critical of the bill, calling it “divisive” and saying that, “I have 90,000 Arkansans who need a job, that’s my No. 1 priority.” That is not the same thing as opposing it, but it is certainly not a sign of comfort. “The question is, is there a need for this legislation right now? And for multiple reasons, I don’t think there is,” she said.
Murkowski No No Labor is hoping that the Alaska Republican could be open to voting for a compromise piece based on her comment that “as it is drafted now I’m not supportive.”
Nelson Yes No On March 10th, he voiced his opposition: “if what was put in is the same as it’s been described, I’m not in support of that.” He left door open to supporting the bill after “major effort” to change it. Very importantly, Nelson left an even bigger door open to supporting the cloture vote but not the legislation: “We’ll have to see whether there’s adequate debate. There are a lot of questions that remain about what the process is long before we have to make a decision about the cloture vote.”

In other words, and this is very important, Nelson is willing to separate the cloture vote from the vote on the legislation. And this is something he’d done before: Earlier this year, Nelson said he was likely to vote in favor of cloture but was “undecided” about the final vote.

Pryor Yes No He is now saying he will wait and see the outcome of negotiations. He recently said: “I’m just waiting for it to unfold in committee and see what it looks like when it hits the floor… When business groups contact me in Arkansas, I listen to them just as I do to unions. My sense is we can find common ground on this, but we’re not just there yet.”
Snowe No No She recently released statement opposing it, but some believe she could perhaps be won over through negotiation, particularly if the card-check provision of EFCA is dropped.
Specter Yes No He has not taken a stand this year. On March 10th, Specter declared: “I’m not going to be bound by party loyalty. My conscience tells me if it’s in the interest of the nation or the state.”
Tester Yes Yes He has yet to announce stance on 2009 version; when contacted, Senate office did not clarify position
M. Udall Yes Yes While campaigning for Senate, he pledged to support EFCA. Campaign website has very lengthy defense of the bill and of card-check provision. Udall also said:”I support the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s a way to ensure that in the workplace, employees have a say, so that we can honor the American tradition of collective bargaining and organizing in the workplace. I urge everybody to go out and make the case.”

Now, Udall is avoiding taking a stand, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, by Politico and by Politico again.

Voinovich No No Some proponents believe Voinovich might be willing to buck his party now that he has announced his retirement
Warner N/A N/A Failed to take a stance during 2008 campaign; now, business groups are reportedly hopeful they can win him over. He said he hopes for a “balanced reform.”
Webb Yes Yes He has pulled back his support. His office told me that he “agrees with President Obama that now is not a good time to bring up the legislation” and that he will be working to bring about a “bipartisan approach.” (Interestingly, the first staffer I talked to mistakenly told me that Webb was a co-sponsor and that he supported the bill.)

With this many Senators doing their best to keep their distance from a bill many will probably end up voting for, it is no wonder the head count looks so murky. Those to watch are undoubtedly Ben Nelson (whose attempts to split the issue of cloture and of the final vote are exactly what Harry Reid is looking for), Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Mark Warner and Arlen Specter.

Evan Bayh, Michael Bennet, and Mark Udall voting against the bill would be a surprise, but they are either too conservative (Bayh) or have too little of a track-record (Bennet, Bayh) for Democrats to take them for granted. To this list I would be tempted to add Claire McCaskill; she has not suggested she is pulling back her support, but her centrist leanings combined with her last minute switch on the omnibus bill make her a question mark on any liberal priority.

Of course, many Senators will be motivated by electoral considerations. Those who are up for re-election in a conservative state in 2010 might be less willing to take a strong stance in favor of EFCA, while the threat of a potential primary will weigh heavily on Specter’s mind. But a lot of this has little to do with elections: Mary Landrieu and Mark Udall were both willing to voice their support for EFCA last year, in the run-up to their election; now, they will not face voters before 2014 but they are withholding their support.

Update, in answer to commenters who are wondering why Democrats would bring up EFCA before Al Franken is seated: That will not happen, and no one expects Harry Reid to call a vote (or labor to call for a vote) until Franken is in the Senate. The bill might have been introduced this week, but it will likely take many months before a final vote is actually organized.

Update 2: I have added Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to the list of those whose vote is up in the air.


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Omnibus, EFCA: Lines are drawn in the Democratic caucus

Recent fiscal debates have allowed us to get a sense of Democratic Senators’ positioning within their caucus. While all voted in favor of the stimulus bill, three Democrats chose to oppose the omnibus bill: Russ Feingold, Evan Bayh and Claire McCaskill. While Feingold was moved by his opposition to earmarks, Bayh and McCaskill justified their “no” vote based on their concern over excessive spending - an ideologically charged statement that puts them well on the right of their party’s spectrum.

Beyond the omnibus bill, Bayh and McCaskill have vocally positioned themselves to the right since the beginning of the 111th Congress, but they have taken very different routes. On the one hand, the Indiana Senator is doing his best to become the de facto leader of the Democrats’ conservative faction and has offered particularly harsh and public criticism of Obama’s plans, particularly on taxes. Bayh is also one of the organizers of the Senate’s newly-created centrist caucus.

Bayh is looking to get “pragmatist, moderate” Democrats to work with “like-minded” Republicans. Accordingly, Bayh is explicitly aiming fire at his party’s liberal faction. In a recent recent Fox News interview, Bayh warned of a “cataclysmic” collapse if Obama continue to implement their economic policies and dismissed some Democrats’ support as “resentment:”

Some of them like the just higher levels of spending for all the programs, the 8 percent across the board increase. They resented some of the lines that were drawn during the Bush years, and they want to make up for that in their minds, and I think some others would prefer maybe to not buck the leadership, that kind of thing, so you put all of that together, and that generates support for the bill, but again, Greta, the day of reckoning is coming. We can’t run deficits like this forever. The markets will react and punish us if we don’t…I am talking about something truly cataclysmic, our currency collapsing, interest rates skyrocketing because of our unsustainable deficits.

McCaskill, meanwhile, has taken a different route: She rarely offers harsh criticism of the President or live up publicly to her behind-the-scenes efforts to push legislation towards a more conservative direction, for instance during the stimulus debate. As for the omnibus bill, McCaskill had hinted that she would vote for the bill before casting a vote against it on the floor. (McCaskill also was one of four Democrats to vote in favor of the Enzi amendment on HIV/AIDS funding.) Asked by George Stephanopoulos why she had reversed herself on the overall bill, McCaskill tweeted back:

Ultimately just couldn’t do it. Not just earmrks tho, also increase in spendng(8%too much)& failure to reconcile $ with stimuls

In short: If Bayh is making himself one of the leading critics of Obama’s agenda, McCaskill is erecting herself as an obstacle to liberal objectives while trying to avoid drawing too much criticism.

And given that McCaskill looks to still be in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act, she is likely to avoid drawing much fire from liberal groups indeed. The lines are now being drawn on card-check, and a number of Democrats who have previously backed EFCA are now either undecided or publicly critical. The most prominent on-the-fence Senators are, in declining order of opposition/indecision: Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson (the only one who has gone as far as to state he would not vote for the bill in its current state), Mark Pryor, Michael Bennet, Bayh, Mark Warner and Mark Udall.

I will conduct a more specific vote-counting effort soon, but I will refrain from going further in legislative calculations in this post since it is devoted to the ideological lines within the Democratic caucus. In this respect, there are several interesting points to make on the above list. The first is Kay Hagan’s continued absence from such lists. Other newly-elected Senators, on the other hand, confirm their moderate-to-conservative reputations, especially Warner and Bennet.

More surprising is Mark Udall’s refusal to state his support of EFCA; not only did Colorado decisively vote for Obama, but Udall is not up for re-election until 2014. On the other hand, this is not the first sign we have gotten that Udall is a centrist on some issues - and he certainly looks less liberal than his cousin Tom, New Mexico’s new Senator. (One vote on which the two cousins parted ways while they were both in the House, for instance, was last summer’s FISA bill.)

Finally, Mary Landrieu’s stance as a leading Democratic hold-out is surprising because she was a co-sponsor of EFCA when it was introduced in the previous Congress - and that was just a year before Landrieu was up for re-election in a very tough race against state Treasurer John Kennedy, who opposed card checks. Now, Landrieu is not up for re-election until 2014, so her partial reversal cannot be due to electoral reasons but to ideological ones. This is certainly not surprising, as Landrieu has done her best to position herself as a leading figure of her party’s right wing, along with Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh.


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Centrist Dems seek alliance with Republicans “of like minds”

January 2009 cannot come fast enough, Democrats were saying for the past two years. Now, they control the White House and enjoy expanded majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yet, the same refrain is now being head: January 2011 and 60 Democratic Senators cannot come fast enough, some are saying, as if we are supposed to believe that 41 Republicans have enough power to block a majority made up of 58 Senators.

I will leave for another day the debate over the filibuster and the fact that a bill systematically requiring 60 votes to pass is a very recent phenomenon. For now, what has become most evident is that centrist Democrats are a far bigger obstacle to liberal objectives than Republicans, and that the White House has much more to fear from Democratic obstructionism than from the GOP’s opposition.

Politico is reporting that a group of Senators are constituting a centrist caucus within the Democratic Party. Yesterday, they held a meeting to discuss the ways in which they could defeat some of their fellow Democrats’ objectives, on issues ranging from spending to taxes. The list of these Senators is certainly unsurprising: Led by Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson, the group also includes Mary Landrieu, Claire McCaskill, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Mark Warner, Bill Nelson, Amy Klobuchar, Jeanne Shaheen, Robert Casey and Mark Begich.

Not only are these Senators signaling they will not vote for some for their party’s priorities, they are going much further in constituting a coherent caucus that will actively seek to block their party’s leadership and push legislation so far to the right as to gain the support of the GOP at the expense of Democrats’.

“If we’re going to get 60, we have to have the pragmatists, the moderates in the Senate, in the Democratic caucus working together and reaching out to those on the other side, of like minds,” said Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, explicitly stating that the gang would ally itself with Republicans against liberals.

In particular, this centrist caucus are zeroing in on Obama’s plan to let Bush’s tax cuts on higher-income revenues expire. “I do think that before we raise revenue, we first should look to see if there are ways we can cut back on spending,” said Bayh, using one of the GOP’s most prized talking points. That’s right, after eight years during which Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthy were one of the most prominent Democratic talking points, a strikingly large number of Democratic Senators are moving to protect one of Bush’s signature pieces of legislation - a legislation their party has agitated against for years!

Should supporting the expiration of Bush’s tax cuts not be a minimal commitment required of Democratic Senators? Worse still, it is important to point out that what those Democrats are asking is a tax cut on the wealthy rather than a stop to a planned tax hike: Bush’s cuts are scheduled to expire in 2011, and the tax rate on the highest bracket will increase by itself to 39.6%. A bill would only be required to keep the rate at 35%.

What makes things particularly confusing is that the centrist caucus is simultaneously favored to cutting taxes and opposed to spending provisions because they would increase the deficit. And we are thus left with the same combination of policies Bush exercised over the past eight years and that has come to pass as fiscal conservatism: no to social spending and to infrastructure spending, but yes to defense spending and to tax cuts on the wealthy.

Let’s take the issue of health care as an indication of what this centrist caucus could do to progressive’s priorities. The White House has signaled that it will let Congress write the bill based on “guiding principles,” and that means that it will be crucial to see who has most influence in shaping the reform. And the first hints should give liberals heartburn.

It is no surprise that Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is planning to take the lead on the issue, but his announcement that he will introduce a bipartisan bill with Iowa’s Republican Senator Chuck Grassley. Now that they have a majority of 58 Senators, do Democrats really want the terms of health care reform to be dictated by a conservative lawmaker who rarely displays centrist streaks and who voted against S-CHIP expansion last month? (Nine Republican Senators voted for S-CHIP, so it’s not like Grassley was merely following party discipline.)

“If [Baucus] is trying to get a bill with 80 votes, you know, and if it does — and it’s a good product, I don’t see any need for Reid to interfere,” Grassley said. Given that conservatives are adamantly opposed to universal health care or to individual mandates and given how ambitious health care reform needs to be, it goes without saying that a bill that would manage to get the support of 80 Senators would be so washed down that it would barely register as change.

Rather than focus on Republicans, proponents of health care reform should be far more weary of the centrist caucus and of the fact that its members are so committed to watering down legislation that they are willing to allow Grassley (not even Snowe or Specter!) to author Obama’s health care reform. As Congressional Quarterly points out:

Republicans have already begun to warn that they would oppose a health care overhaul that includes a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurance, fearing it could lead to a single-payer system as people drop their private insurance or employers stop offering it. As a result, Democrats may be forced to drop the idea if they want significant Republican support for an overhaul.

Government-run health care remains a far cry from a single-payer system and that is the minimal step one would expect from a health care bill crafted by Democrats. What would be the point of getting “significant Republican support” (meaning more than just what is needed to get 60 votes) if it will not even include a government-run insurance plan? (The same debate is currently taking place on EFCA, which Blanche Lincoln is increasingly looking like she might oppose while Mark Pryor is holding out hope that “a compromise bill that both business and labor could agree to should emerge.”)

Since requiring 60 votes is no longer enough to stop efficient reform, a new barrier of 70-80 votes is being erected! As if the support of 3/5th of the Senate would be too narrow a consensus, as if a 60-40 roll call would be a sign that the issue is deeply divisive, as if it should not matter that voters have chosen to send 59 Democrats to the U.S. Senate.


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Kennedy’s absence

For the past four days, Democrats have been desperately looking for 60 votes to pass the stimulus bill , and it looks like the Senate has finally cut a deal that at least three Republicans are comfortable voting for. Yet, the situation is close enough that we are still tracking where individual members are leaning on the overall bill, and key amendments proposed have already fallen one or two votes short; the most high profile failure was perhaps that of Murray Amendment that would have increased the frustratingly low funding reserved for mass transit.

Everyone has been talking about how Minnesota’s vacant seat is hurting Democrats: If Franken had been in the Senate, they would have one extra vote to work with (59 Senators instead of 58). Yet, there has been much less talk about the other crucial vote that Democrats are missing: Ted Kennedy’s.

Only starting last night do news reports seem to have noticed Kennedy’s absence, with a number of stories pointing out that, to pass the stimulus bill, Democrats might need the vote of the Massachusetts Senator who has been sidelined by sickness for much of the past nine months.

Kennedy’s absence means that Democrats have been working with 57 Senators rather than the 58 they should have at their disposal. According to Senate rules, for someone not to participate on votes that require the support of 60 Senators amounts to a “no” vote, so Kennedy’s absence helped Republicans defeat key amendments - and it is now helping them block the stimulus bill by forcing Democrats to find three GOPers to cross-over rather than only two. And even though Kennedy might now show up for the final vote, Democrats cannot rely on that fact and need to compromise enough to ensure passage as if they did not have Kennedy’s vote.

It is difficult to fault a Senator for being sick, so it is understandable that Democrats are far more focused on seating Franken than on getting Kennedy to resign. Unfortunately, perhaps we should be a bit less delicate when it comes to the future of the country and the passage of important bills. This is the Senate, after all, so is it fair for a Senator to choose to stay in the chamber when he will be unable to participate for the foreseeable future and thus cost his party a crucial vote?

Kennedy has been holding on to his Senate seat for 47 years, and he is now 77 years old. He is one of many Senators who are entrenched enough that they will never face a serious re-election challenge and thus choose to never retire, even as they get old and even as their health declines. Senators like Kennedy or Byrd are certainly not as capable to exercise their function as they once were - and not as capable as others could be if they deigned to retire.

This is not to say that Senators should have to leave their seat as soon as they face a health problem. South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson, for instance, suffered a dramatic brain hemorrhage in late 2006 that kept him sidelined for much of 2007, but he was back in the Senate by the end of the year. Yet, some Senators give the impression that they are so attached to their power that they will never agree leave it, even if it hurts their party’s caucus and even if it deprives their state of representation.

What will it take for Senators like Byrd and Kennedy to decide they should leave the Senate? Will they wait as long as Storm Thurmond did - retiring past 100 and after 47 years in the Senate? (That’s as many as Kennedy and less than Byrd.) That Kennedy let it be known that he would like his wife to succeed him if he were to die while in office or the fact  that he was probably behind his niece Caroline’s disastrous bid for New York’s Senate seat worsens the impression that Kennedy is unable to let go of power.

Naturally, this is currently impacting many areas other than the stimulus. Take health care, for instance: Kennedy is the go-to person for that debate in the Senate, and most Democrats would not dare try to take action on the issue as long as Kennedy does not give them the green light; Kennedy’s absence thus dramatically slows down any attempt to reform health care. It also is a blow to liberals, since leaves the issue in the hands of Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, one of the most conservative Senate Democrats who is already out with the outlines of his own reform.

These circumstances should make us think about the viability of imposing term limits on Senators. I understand that the Senate functions along seniority rules, but I am not talking about a limit of 2 terms (12 years) , like the one most Governors are subjected to. But what about a limit of 5 terms (30 years) - or even 6 (36 years)? It might sound ridiculous, but it could be one way to keep some type of mobility in the Senate, avoid Senators holding on to power and allow politicians from states like Massachusetts to rise through the ranks.


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The centrist caucus and the ever-changing definition of “broad support”

The stimulus bill is still stuck in the U.S. Senate, with a coalition of 18 to 20 Senators from both parties negotiating to reduce the bill’s price tag. Yet, it is unclear whether the leadership is waiting to ensure the bill passes or to ensure that a significant number of GOP Senators support it. In other words, is the point of the current negotiations to get to 60 votes or to achieve an even larger majority in the mid-to-high 60s?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been insisting that he has the 60 votes needed to pass the bill, and most news reports (starting with First Read’s) agree that enough Republicans would vote in the affirmative if it just came up for a vote right now. While the leadership will not want to bring the bill to a vote unless they are positive they have enough votes, it is highly plausible that the current delay has more to do with the quest for bipartisan support rather than with the bill’s adoption.

The question then: How big a majority is needed for commentators to say that a bill has “broad support?” The Senate’s 60-seat requirement already gives a lot of power to the political center by preventing a simple majority from passing bills; 60 seats already represents such “broad support” that it give moderates tremendous power.

Arbitrarily raising the bar to an even higher level of support amounts to giving the centrist caucus the right to veto on any legislation.

That is precisely the goal of those who insist for the need of a wider consensus  - and it is exactly what has been happening over the past week. Sure, it is possible that these negotiations are necessary for the bill to even just get 60 votes. But the fact remains that the possibility that the stimulus bill might “only” pass with 60 votes is being described as a failure for Barack Obama and for Democrats.

Such a scenario is being preemptively labeled as the type of party-line vote that the new President supposedly promised to avoid. That’s right, Obama is being warned that a 60-40 majority would represent a narrow and partisan victory that would be sure to haunt him down the line.

We are right back into the problem I outlined two weeks ago, this very peculiar belief that elections should not have consequences. On Election Day 2006 and then again on November 4th, voters sent a high number of Democrats to the Senate - allowing the party to control 58 of the chamber’s seats (59 if Franken is seated). In other words: voters put Democrats one seat away from a filibuster-proof majority.

Yet, this only moved the goal post for what commentators and centrist politicians are willing to call “broad support.” Instead of 60+ votes, “broad support” is now understood to be something north of 65 votes. This amounts to saying that the Senate should be governed in the same manner whether Democrats control 51 seats or whether they have 59; it amounts to a denial that the 2006 and 2008 elections should have any repercussions on the policy process; and it keeps the liberal agenda hostage to ever-changing consensus requirements.

Of course, this problem arises from the fact that the Democratic Party encompasses a wide ideological spectrum, and that at least a third of its caucus is made up of centrist Senators who are sometimes closer to the Republican Party’s left than to the Democratic left.

Campaign Diaries is an electoral blog, so it is first and foremost devoted to the fight between Democrats and Republicans. But whenever possible, I try to bring in ideological struggles within a party - whether it be in discussing liberal opposition to Gillibrand, the opposition of Moran and Thiart in Kansas or the fact that the Democratic nomination for New Hampshire’s 2010 Senate race is likely to go to a progressive. The reason for this is that Democratic and Republican centrists often function as a third party that exercise a powerful hold on the Senate.

Perhaps because the GOP caucus has lost most of its moderate members over the years, this coalition denies the wishes of liberals far more often than those of conservatives - as was evidenced by the Gang of Fourteen episode a few years ago. The agreement might have prevented Republicans from removing the right to filibuster judicial nominations (it was not clear whether the GOP leadership had the votes to do so in the first place), but the agreement’s stringent limitations on future filibusters prevented Democrats from blocking Bush’s subsequent nominees.

Now, we are hearing about a “Gang of 18″ - the centrist coalition led by Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Republican Susan Collins of Maine that is leading the effort to reduce the stimulus bill’s tag price. The other Senators are rarely named in news reports, but identifying them is important to figure out the Senate’s ideological breakdown - which is often more relevant than its partisan breakdown. Open Left attempted to identify this gang’s members, and came up with the following (incomplete) list of 16 members:

  • Democrats: Evan Bayh, Michael Bennet, Kent Conrad, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Warner, Jim Webb and Mark Udall
  • Republicans: Susan Collins, Mel Martinez, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, George Voinovich

The first interesting feature of this list is that 6 of the 11 Democrats who are listed were first elected or appointed in the past two cycles, and not all come from red-leaning states. Second, two of the five Republicans have already announced that they will not seek re-election; their decision to join the ranks of Senate centrists when neither has as moderate a reputation as Specter, Collins and Snowe suggests that conservatives were right to worry that their retirement announcements would push them towards more centrist positions; similarly, Pat Toomey’s decision not to challenge Specter in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary is allowing Specter not to have to move to the right over the next year.


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Searching for Republican defectors

Barack Obama’s inauguration will kick off an era of Democratic dominance in Washington, since the incoming President will have the support of large majorities in both chambers of Congress. In fact, Democrats now enjoy a bigger majority in both the House and the Senate than Republicans ever did over the past eight years - and that did not stop the Bush Administration from passing major reforms!

Yet, the GOP cannot be expected to roll over as much as congressional Democrats did over the past eight years, and reaching 60 votes might not always prove easy for the Democratic leadership. For one, Democrats “only” control 59 Senate seats so there will always be the need for at least one Republican cross-over.

Furthermore, and while the Southern realignment has eliminated the Senate’s truly conservative Democrats, a number of Democratic Senators (Mark Pryor, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, perhaps Michael Bennet or Marc Begich, …) are expected to break with their caucus on crucial issues (such as the battle over union card checks), forcing Harry Reid to find even more votes among Republicans.

There will be obvious candidates for defection on an issue-by-issue basis; and Democrats will obviously always keep an eye on Senators like Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins.

But the more interesting question (the one that keeps conservative activists up at night and makes Democrats hopeful) is which Republican Senators could find themselves drifting towards the center in a predictable trend, establishing a pattern of alliance with the Democratic Party that would make Obama’s governance and Reid’s leadership that much easier?

1. The unpredictable lame ducks

Once they announce their retirement, Senators generally care less about pleasing their party’s establishment and donors, thereby becoming somewhat unpredictable lame ducks. This leads Chris Bowers to argue that Republican retirements could be a source of votes for Democrats; he cites as evidence the difference between the voting patterns on the December auto-bailout bill of those Senators who knew they were soon leaving the chamber and those who were staying.

I am weary of generalizing this argument, since the underlying premise would be that a Senator’s true ideology is are always more centrist than their public persona dictates - and this is clearly not the case. In many cases, becoming a lame duck can allow a Senator to be more unapologetically left- or right-wing.

But there is undoubtedly some truth to Bowers’s argument when we consider some of the Republicans retiring in 2010. First, there is Florida’s Mel Martinez, a reliable conservative but one who has expressed unease with his party’s position on immigration. As a Senator, it was hard for Martinez to break with his party’s orthodoxy on one of the issues that are most important to the Republican base.

But that could change now that Martinez is on his way out: He might be more willing to support Obama’s efforts if the President wants to pass an immigration reform over the next two years, Martinez might be more willing to support his efforts.

An even better example might be George Voinovich. Over his two terms, Ohio’s Senior Senator had become a somewhat predictable conservative vote in the Senate; but Voinovich had the reputation of a moderate Republican when he was Ohio’s Governor in the 1990s, and that is fueling some hopes among Democrats that he might now choose to cross-over to vote in favor of some of Obama’s economic bills.

Groups allied to the Democratic Party are already targeting Voinovich. Americans United for Change, for instance, is airing the following ad in Ohio about the stimulus plan:

Yet (and this where things get complicated, and thus fascinating to follow) Voinovich’s retirement might have the opposite effect, making him that much less receptive to Democratic arguments on an issue like card checks. Unions were hoping that the muscle they demonstrated in Ohio during the presidential election would force Voinovich to reconsider his opposition to EFCA (card-checks) to avoid their wrath in the 2010 midterms. But Voinovich is no longer running for re-election, so he can vote however he likes without having to think of the consequences of alienating labor.

2. Arlen Specter

In an ordinary year, Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter would be one of the first Republicans targeted as possible a defector. Specter has often bucked his party over the years, and he is also believed to be open to crossing over in favor of a card-check bill.

Yet, Specter’s usual voting patterns might be moot this year as the Senator wants to prove his conservative bona fides to avoid being primaried in the spring of 2010. In 2004, then-Rep. Pat Toomey came within 7,000 votes of upseting Specter in a bruising contest in which Toomey ran on the incumbent’s right. (Toomey is now the President of Club for Growth.)

Now, Toomey has expressed interest in running again. Given that Pennsylvania’s Republican electorate is now far more conservative than it was six years ago, Specter is understandably very concerned in not giving his old adversary another opening and that is likely to prevent Demorats from counting on his votes on important occasions, starting with EFCA. (Note that Toomey’s flirtations with a run might be intended as nothing more than a way of making Specter vote to the right for the next few months.)

Already, Specter has done his best to look like he is resisting the incoming Administration. His criticism of Eric Holder’s appointment as Attorney General is among the most vocal opposition we have heard a Senator express against one of Obama’s picks. Specter took a very aggressive role in Holder’s confirmation hearings today, drawing the headlines he wanted conservatives activists to see.

3. John McCain

One final question mark is what role Obama’s presidential adversary will play in the 111th Congress.  At the beginning of Bush’s presidency, McCain emerged as a serious thorn on the President’s side as he bitterly criticized some of his reforms.

McCain could take a similar role this year, becoming a rallying point for Republican opposition to Obama. Such an attitude would be covered very differently than his criticism of Bush, however. The reason McCain’s 2001 attitude attracted so much attention was that he belonged to the same party as Bush; on the other hand, McCain criticizing Obama would be in line with what is expected from a Senator of an opposing party.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that McCain would take such a route. There is a reason the Arizona Senator has never been a conservative icon, after all, and he is unlikely to feel comfortable as the de facto head of Republican resistance.

This is certainly not to say that McCain will buck the GOP and support Obama’s bills, but it is fascinating to see that conservatives (and longtime McCain opponents) are predicting that he will do just that, betraying them as they believe he has in the past. Former Senator Rick Santorum just penned an editorial in The Philadelphia Inquirer warning that McCain might be Obama’s “secret weapon:”

In McCain’s mind, however, losing the presidency will not be the final chapter of his life story. He knows the path to “Big Media” redemption. Working with the man who vanquished him in November will show them all the real McCain again.

Remember, it was this onetime prisoner of war who led the charge to open diplomatic relations with Vietnam. If that past is prologue, and McCain’s legislative record is any guide, he will not just join with Obama but lead the charge in Congress on global warming, immigration “reform,” the closing of Guantanamo, federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research, and importation of prescription drugs.

But McCain won’t stop there in his effort to rehabilitate himself in the media’s - or maybe his own - eyes.

In early 2008, Santorum endorses Mitt Romney in an effort to squash McCain’s bid, and it is worth revisiting his comments:

There was a reason John McCain collapsed last year, and it’s because he was the frontrunner, and everybody in the Republican Party got a chance to look at him. And when they looked at him, they wait well, wait a minute, he’s not with us on almost all of the core issues of…on the economic side, he was against the President’s tax cuts, he was bad on immigration. On the environment, he’s absolutely terrible. He buys into the complete left wing environmentalist movement in this country. He is for bigger government on a whole laundry list of issues. He was…I mean, on medical care, I mean, he was for re-importation of drugs. I mean, you can go on down the list. I mean, this is a guy who on a lot of the core economic issues, is not even close to being a moderate, in my opinion.

Needless to say, what Senators like McCain, Voinovich, Martinez, Specter and others do over the next few months will become immediate fodder on the GOP’s upcoming civil war.


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Retirement and recruitment watch, Senate edition

We have been flooded by retirement and recruitment news since the beginning of the year, as incumbents and potential candidates had time to ponder their next move during the holiday season. This seems like a good time to assemble as exhaustive as possible a database of all the politicians we are keeping an eye on for Senate races: Which Senators are being closely monitored, and what potential challengers could emerge?

Retirements

Five Senators are already known to be leaving their seat open in 2010: Kansas’s Brownback, Florida’s Martinez, Missouri’s Bond, Ohio’s Voinovich and Delaware’s Kaufman. At least 12 other Senators are on the retirement list:

Those we are watching closely Iowa’s Chuck Grassley
Texas’s Kay Bailey Hutchison
Those whose retirement would be unexpected but plausible Illinois’s Roland Burris
Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn
New Hampshire’s Judd Gregg
Arizona’s John McCain
Alabama’s Richard Shelby
Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter
Louisiana’s David Vitter
Those no one trusts * Kentucky’s Jim Bunning
Hawaii’s Daniel Inouye
Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski

[*Inouye, Mikulski and Bunning both announced they would run for re-election in December, but it will take much more for them to be taken off retirement watch given their age and health problems. Don't forget that as long as a congressman has not decided for sure to retire, he rarely admit to be even thinking about it or it will be impossible for him to prepare a re-election campaign, hire staff and find donors.]

There are only three Democrats on this list (Burris, Mikulski and Inouye, the first of which is not even a Senator yet), versus nine Republicans. And that only adds up to the unbalance of the Senators who have already announced their retirement (four Republicans, one Democrat).

Recruitment

Over the past week, we were treated to Jeb Bush and Chris Matthews’s decisions to pass on the Florida and Pennsylvania Senate races, respectively. But we are only getting started, and there are many more people to watch! The problem that could soon arise for Republicans is a vicious circle in which a wave of retirement and recruitment failures leads to more retirements and to more potentially top-tier challengers passing on a run.

I have written in bold the names that attract the most speculation. And this is a work in progress: I have most certainly forgotten many people and I will add any names that I might have forgotten. (You can also check my newly created recruitment page).

State Party Potential candidates
AL Dems (against Shelby) Rep. Bobby Bright
Rep. Artur Davis
Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks
AK Dems (against Murkowski) Ethan Berkowitz
state Senator Hollis French
former Governor Tony Knowles
AK GOP (against Murkowski) Governor Sarah Palin
AZ Dems (against McCain) Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Governor Janet Napolitano (joined Obama’s Cabinet)
AZ GOP (against McCain) former Rep. J.D. Hayworth
AR GOP (against Lincoln) prosecutor Tim Griffin (probable candidate)
former Governor Mike Huckabee (has ruled it out)
CA GOP (against Boxer) State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (is running)
Carly Fiorina
Rep. Tom McClintock
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
CO GOP (against Bennet) former Rep. Bob Beauprez
former football star John Elway
former Rep. McInnis (has expressed interest)
former Governor Bill Owens
Attorney General John Suthers
former Rep. Tom Tancredo
CT GOP (against Dodd) Governor Jodi Rell (an unlikely prospect)
former Rep. Chris Shays
Peter Schiff
DE Democrats (open seat) Attorney General Beau Biden
former Lieutenant Governor John Carney
DE GOP (open seat) Rep. Mike Castle
FL Dems (open seat) Reps. Allen Boyd (waiting for Sink)
former state Senator Dan Gelber (mulling run)
Rep. Ron Klein (waiting for Sink)
real estate developer Chris Korge
Rep. Kendrick Meek (is running)
state CFO Alex Sink (mulling run)
Rep. Robert Wexler
FL GOP (open seat) state Senate president Jeff Atwater
Rep. Vern Buchanan
former Governor Jeb Bush
Rep. Connie Mack
state Attorney General Bill McCollum
former state Speaker Marco Rubio (mulling run)
Chief Meddial Officer Marion Thorpe
GA Dems (against Isakson) Attorney General Thurbert Baker (an unlikely prospect)
former Secretary of State Cathy Cox
Rep. Jim Marshall (an unlikely prospect)
former state Rep. Jim Martin
HI GOP (against Inouye) Governor Linda Lingle
IA Dems (against Grassley) Rep. Bruce Braley
Ed Fallon
Tom Vilsack (joined Cabinet)
ID Dems (against Crapo) state Senator Nicole LeFevour (ruled it out)
IL GOP (against unknown) Rep. Mark Kirk
Rep. Peter Roskam
KS Dems (open seat) former Rep. Nancy Boyda
Rep. Dennis Moore (an unlikely prospect)
Governor Kathleen Sebelius
former Rep. Jim Slattery (ruled it out)
KS GOP (open seat) Rep. Jerry Moran (is running)
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (has expressed interest)
KY Dems (against Bunning) Rep. Ben Chandler
Attorney General Jack Conway
Auditor Crit Luallen (has express interest)
LG Daniel Mongiardo (has expressed interest)
LA Dems (against Vitter) Jim Bernhard
former Governor Kathleen Blanco
Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu
Rep. Charlie Melancon
LA GOP (against Vitter) Secretary of State Jay Dardenne
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins
MO Dems (open seat) Attorney General Chris Koster
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
Rep. Russ Carnahan
MO GOP (open seat) Rep. Roy Blunt (entourage has hinted he is in)
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson
former Rep. Kenny Hulshof
Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder
Treasurer Sarah Steelman (has expressed interest)
former Sen. Jim Talent (entourage has hinted he’s in)
NC Dems (against Burr) Roy Cooper
former Treasurer Richard Moore (has said a run is unlikely)
outgoing Governor Mike Easley
Secretary of State Elaine Marshall
Rep. Heath Shuler (has expressed interest)
ND GOP (against Dorgan) Governor John Hoeven
NH Dems (against Gregg) Rep. Paul Hodes (has expressed interest)
Governor John Lynch
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (has expressed interest)
NV GOP (against Reid) Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki
former State Sen. Joe Heck
Rep. Dean Heller
former Rep. Jon Porter
NY GOP (against Paterson’s appointee) Rep. Peter King (has expressed interest)
former Mayor Rudy Giuliani
NY GOP (against Schumer) No one
OH Dems (open seat) Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner
Attorney General Richard Cordray
Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher
Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Rep. Tim Ryan (has expressed interest)
Rep. Zach Space
Rep. Betty Sutton
OH GOP (open seat) former Sen. Mike DeWine
former Rep. John Kasich (likely to run for Gov.)
former Rep. Rob Portman
OK Dems (against Coburn) Governor Brad Henry (has said unlikely)
state Senator Andrew Rice
OR GOP (against Wyden) former Senator Gordon Smith
PA Dems (against Specter) District Attorney Lynne Abraham
Chris Matthews
state Rep. Dwight Evans
Rep. Patrick Murphy (has expressed interest)
Rep. Allison Schwarz (has expressed interest)
Rep. Joe Sestak (has ruled it out)
state Rep. Josh Shapiro
Joe Torsella
Auditor General Jack Wagner (has expressed interest)
Treasurer Robin Wiessmann
PA GOP (against Specter) former Rep. Pat Toomey (has expressed interest)
SC Dems (against DeMint) former state party chair Joe Erwin
former Governor Jim Hodges
Superintendent of Education Jim Rex
state Rep. James Smith
state Senator Vincent Sheheen
former Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum
SD Dems (against Thune) Rep. Stephanie Herseth (an unlikely prospect)
state Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidepriem
UT Dems (against Bennett) Rep. Jim Matheson (a highly unlikely prospect)
VT GOP (against Leahy) Governor Jim Douglas (an unlikely prospect)
WA GOP (against Murray) Rep. Dave Reichert
Dino Rossi (unlikely)
WI GOP (against Feingold) state Attorney General John Van Hollen
Rep. Paul Ryan

Those whose decision we are expecting with the most impatience are: Kathleen Sebelius (KS), Alex Sink (FL), John Hoeven (ND), Pat Toomey (PA), Robin Carnahan (MO), Roy Cooper (NC), Ron Porter (NV), Linda Lingle (HI), Arnold Schwarzenegger (CA).



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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

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    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
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  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
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  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EST/-5.0/no DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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